Poverty and oppression go hand in hand for women in Afghanistan. In a country hosting a crushing degree of poverty, women face a variety of discrimination and violence, in many cases from their own families. Global Rights estimates almost nine out of 10 Afghan women will endure marriage against their will or physical, sexual or psychological abuse.
In response to the abuse of women in Afghanistan, several non-profits have formed to focus on empowering women and helping them escape the trap of poverty and abuse. Many of these non-profits are based in Afghanistan and feature Afghan women in prominent leadership roles. All of them face danger operating in rural areas of Afghanistan where the rights of women are routinely trod upon.
- Afghan Women’s Educational Center (AWEC): AWEC works to empower women in local Afghan communities while working towards gender equality. Through a series of programs focused on providing income and education opportunities for women, they hope to bring about lasting change in Afghanistan towards equality for all. Also as part of their agenda, the organization works to offer new social services for women in addition to founding community centers in rural areas to promote women’s issues and health.
- Afghan Women’s Mission: A small group of Americans founded this organization in 2000 as a way of providing medical assistance to Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. The Afghan Women’s Mission focuses its support on efforts led by Afghan women such as clinics, schools, orphanages, agricultural programs and demonstrations. The volunteers of this non-profit are proud to support the political and humanitarian efforts of another organization on this list, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA).
- Afghan Women’s Network: Formed by a group of women after participating United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, the Afghan Women’s Network seeks to provide a foundation for a movement of women in Afghanistan. Boasting a presence in Kabul, Herat, Balkh, Kandahar, Bamyan, Paktia, Nangarhar and Kunduz the network serves as an umbrella for 125 women’s organizations across Afghanistan. The member organizations are concerned with addressing gender-based violence, the health of children and education for girls.
- Afghan Women Welfare Department (AWWD): Founded in the last year of the Soviet war in Afghanistan in 1989, AWWD began as a way to improve the outcomes of Afghan women in refugee camps. Expanding from its original purpose, AWWD now attempts to assist Afghan women entrepreneurs in the Peshawar. In over 19 years, AWWD has educated some 13,000 women in education services, vocational training, general health, reproductive health, gender awareness training, human rights and income-generation.
- Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA): Perhaps the oldest women’s rights advocacy organization operating in Afghanistan, several highly-educated Afghan women formed the group in 1977 under the leadership of an Afghan woman named Meena. Surviving the Meena’s assassination in 1987, RAWA continues to struggle for the rights of women in addition to democratic and secular values in Afghanistan. Currently, RAWA provides publications to raise awareness of the plight of Afghan women and works to provide education, healthcare and employment opportunities to women in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council: The only mixed public-private institution on this list, a group of Afghans, university officials and U.S. State Department personnel formed the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council in 2002 at Georgetown University. Like the other non-profits on this list, programming addresses education, health and economic empowerment of women while also focusing heavily on women’s leadership development. Honorary co-chairs of the organization include First Ladies Laura Bush, Hillary R. Clinton and Rula Ghani.
- Women for Afghan Women (WAW): Founded a few months prior to the attacks of September 11th in 2001, WAW is based in New York in the Afghan community in Queens. Responding to abuse directed towards women, its members operate long-term shelters for women and children in 13 Afghan provinces while also providing legal aid to women in need. Their past clients have included women targeted with mutilation, acid attacks, torture, rape and attempted murder.
– Will Sweger